Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Strategies for Getting Students to Submit Work

(Estimated Reading 5 minutes)

Are you tired from chasing students for overdue work? Do you want to decrease the number of students who do not submit work? Here are some strategies I have found that work to increase submission rates.

I was teaching in a school that had ten classes per subject - I had one class, and I was chatting to another teacher that had two classes about submission rates of a particular task. I had three students that had not submitted by the due date, a 12% non-submission rate. The other teacher with two classes had the majority of the class not submit in both classes. He was running near 80% non-submission! Why was his submission rate so dismal? 

Communication of Expectations and Consequences

During our conversation he made statements like “I know what it is like when you are young, so many assignments to submit, work, sport etc” and “I wasn’t very diligent at submitting myself when I was their age.” He was being very empathetic to the students for their lack of submission - I suspect he may have been sending the students all the wrong signals!

Be clear with your discussions with students. These are the points I cover with my students at the time of setting the task:

  1. This is the due date. Make a sticky note on your desktop. Set an alert on your phone. Write it in your diary/phone/calendar. Do this now. Show me that you have done this.

  2.  If you think you have extenuating circumstances and won’t submit on time request extensions in writing via email/LMS message before the due date.

  3. I will contact your parents via phone if you do not submit.

  4. If you don’t submit I will help you <insert times and places> so i can help you with your work.

  5. Make sure students know your marking time frame - that non-submission holds up the return of work for the entire class. To not submit affects me and the rest of the class.

This sets the tone for the students, due dates are important, non submission is not an option - you will finish the work even if it is at recess/lunch/after school!

Mandate a plan/outline

Written work is often a stumbling block for students - where do I start? How will I know I am heading in the right direction? Uncertainty leads to procrastination. Most of my writing tasks have an inbuilt outline process which is done in class. With teacher feedback on their outline they have a clear direction for their assignment and they are less likely to get stuck. This process increases submission and decreases plagiarism. I wrote a previous blog post about outlines

Outlines mandatory done in class (open browser) dot points only hyperlinked to exemplar contains success criteria (rubric) feedback given before the next lesson   Benefits include   improves quality of final product improves submission rates gets students started helps students sequence their essays provides interim feedback

Unpack an Exemplar

Exemplars orient the students as to what success looks like. The critical part of an exemplar is that it is a SIMILAR task not THE task. I have seen teachers give exemplars of the same task which results in less confident students plagiarising the exemplar. Exemplars give students the confidence that they are on the right track.

Exemplars show the language features and structure of the genre. Annotations aid students further.

Use a hyperlinked template

A good template includes basic structure of the task and is hyperlinked to the task sheet and the exemplar. Having the basic structure in a document is a lot less daunting than starting with a blank document. Having hyperlinks to all the resources such as a task sheet and exemplars means the students don’t have to go hunting for them.

Email all parents (BCC)

I email parents for very important due dates. There is a significant proportion of students that forget school even exists once they take a step outside of the gates, and they only recall due dates when they are seated in class. Parents can be your greatest allies in submitting work!

Have clear checkpoints

Big tasks need to be broken down and it is useful for students to have interim deadlines for various parts of the task. You can set up an assignment template where the first page contains the checkpoints as shown in the example below. Students change the colours to indicate their progress or to request drafting.

For students that have missed interim deadlines a quick email home improves your chances of getting the work on the final due date.

Use Google Docs

I use Google Docs, specifically Doctopus which pushes out copies of the template. As I am the owner of the document students I can’t be shared out, the student can’t delete the document. If they claim their work has disappeared I can recover it using version history. But most importantly I can see their progress at any time and give feedback as the work is in progress. I check on the levels of completion just before the due date and send out an email to parents registering my concern.

Negotiate the due date with students for the whole class

When determining the due date, consult with your students. It may be that several other things are due on the same day. Students are more likely to meet a deadline when they have had input as to the timing.

Grade student work in a timely fashion

Imagine the students busting a gut to get work in on time, then the teacher takes 8 weeks to grade the work. It is unlikely that students won’t be as prompt with the next task if you still have the current one. Give an undertaking to the students about when they can expect the work returned to them - I will often negotiate this with the students at the same time as negotiating the due date. 

Focus on submission as a whole school

What happens in other classrooms does impact what happens in yours. In one school I was in, one particular faculty were notorious for their low expectations for submission. They often were marking multiple late tasks on the night of the report deadline. This makes it hard for students when teachers are inconsistent.

Trick students

Tell the students that the due date is on <due date> then change the submission date for the whole class. The initial due date creates a sense of urgency at the beginning of the task then the change in date makes the students feel like you are giving them extra time to polish their work. I say something like “I know the due date is tomorrow, Friday, but I won’t have time to mark them this weekend so I will be changing the submission time to Sunday night. Students super appreciate having extra unanticipated time. This also works when you have a number of students request extensions - it brings everyone in line. Use this judiciously.

TLDR: Too long, didn’t read -

Communicate clear expectations of submission and consequences of non-submission. Expect written extension requests.  Mandate a Plan/Outline Unpack an Exemplar Include Checkpoints Push out a Template  Negotiate Class Deadlines   Monitor progress using Google Docs

Are there any strategies that you have used that improve submission that have not been listed above?

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